“I don’t have money to donate; I have time and love, and that is what I give by the millions” -Sarah Oren, FosterDogsNYC.com
How many of us would love to give more but simply can’t afford to spend any more than we already do? Just a Metrocard, groceries, dog food, and the occasional beer can add up to a lot, and then you find yourself with $14.00 in your bank account and a $50.00 cable bill. Safe to say this leaves very little left over to donate to an organization. Good news: money is just one small way you can give. My sister, a student training to become a teacher, is one of the best examples of giving to a cause with something just as powerful as money- your time. Before she was a graduate student, my sister, Sarah, was just another broke girl fresh out of college, living paycheck to paycheck in an overpriced Manhattan apartment with little money to spare on her marketing salary. A lover of dogs since birth, Sarah was always on the lookout for ways to help save shelter dogs. Knowing she couldn’t afford to adopt a dog at the time, she instead found a pet foster program through the municipal city shelter, and fostered a blind/deaf senior Chihuahua named Paco for a few weeks. Realizing foster programs were largely unknown amongst even the most avid animal lovers, Sarah chose to spread the word about fostering by creating a blog called FosterDogsNYC.com, which would act as a posting board for dogs across the tri-state area available for fostering or adoption.FosterDogsNYC.com began with a small handful of readers daily. Three years later, the website garners over 500 unique visitors daily. About her impressive visitor numbers, Sarah says she “hopes that number continues to grow, as that means more people are learning about fostering and the joy it brings.” The Facebook page for her blog was created several months after the blog was founded, yet rapidly gained hundreds of fans. Today, FosterDogsNYC has close to 4,000 Facebook fans- all gained organically through people cross-posting and sharing its pictures and links. I asked Sarah about the change has come from her work:
One amazing thing that has come as a result of my site’s creation is the awareness it brings. So many people say to me that they had never known about temporary pet ownership before Foster Dogs NYC. I have also had the honor of being featured in several national publications, gaining some much-needed exposure for pet fostering.
But Sarah knows just as well as anyone else that the work can be daunting, and is never finished.
Until every dog in every shelter is adopted, my work will not be done. I find it a shame that so many people buy pets from breeders or (gasp!) pet shops when there are incredible dogs at shelters and in rescue groups who are truly in need of a home. The statistics are staggering: 6-8 million homeless pets enter shelters yearly; half are rescued, and the other half are euthanized due to lack of space or resources.There is a lot of work to be done, and I am starting with where I live… that’s the best place to start, right?
So now you’re thinking, “wait, I don’t have hours every day to dedicate.” That’s okay, says Sarah. All you need is a couple hours a week and you can make a huge impact.
There are many things someone can do if they only have a small bit of time to give. Even a couple hours per week is an amazing commitment, and would make a huge difference to whatever cause they assist. For example, a dog lover can go to orientation at their local shelter and become a new volunteer. Know what you can do in those two hours at a shelter? Take photos of adoptable dogs for marketing, walk a bunch of dogs, and talk to potential adopters about the dogs you’d recommend they meet. It’s not about how much time you give or whether you can donate money. Rather, being a giving person is about offering what you can and showing your dedication in your own special way.
If you are interested in volunteering at a shelter, Sarah suggests checking out BARC in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which allows for anyone to sign up to be a dog walker; just show up, sign a form, and you’re handed a shelter dog to walk around.